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Ruling administration and weak opposition

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, January 12
There are signs that after the local elections at the end of May, which will presumably result in another victory for the ruling National Movement, the opposition will try to launch more protest rallies. One could predict however that these will not be very big as the appropriate mood is not present in the Georgian population. The people are frustrated and disappointed, as they expected some serious results from the hundred days of protest rallies last spring. But the administration also has a difficult task before it, because it has to decide “what comes after 2013?” and plan and act appropriately.

The Presidential term of Mikheil Saakashvili expires in January 2013 and he cannot stand again, so it should be decided what will come next. Theoretically, the Constitution could be amended and he could be granted a third term, so now Georgia stands at the crossroads. Who will Saakashvili take as his model? George Washington, Aliev or Putin?

In the eighteenth century much depended on George Washington, because the way he chose would determine the US's commitment to either democracy or autocracy. He chose democracy and as soon as his second Presidential term expired he gave up his political career and went back to his farm. This was the triumph of American democracy and determined the country’s further development by establishing a democratic tradition. The victory of democracy is not only changing a Government through democratic elections but a Government leaving power when its term is up.

A couple of times Saakashvili has said that George Washington is his idol. But there are other options. Ilham Aliev’s attempts to keep himself in power for as long as he wants are quite transparent. Many have taken this route before and many will in future too, by raping the Constitution at the 'request of the people'. So theoretically this could happen here, but if it did the democratic image Saakashvili and his administration still enjoy in the West would be considerably damaged. So there is a compromise option, the so-called Putin variant, in which a new President is elected who is clearly pro-Saakashvili and appoints him as PM. Doing this would require a slight change in the Constitution but is very much a realistic possibility at present, as the both opposition and Government have said that the President’s power should be diminished and a Parliamentary republic should be established.

Some analysts suggest that there is a high probability that Saakashvili will take the Putin option. They say that Saakashvili will make the relevant amendments to the Constitution to decrease Presidential power and increase those of the PM in time for the next Presidential elections. The new President will then be a dummy as all the executive power will be concentrated in the hands of the PM who, as you can guess, will be Mikheil Saakashvili. If the opposition does not unite and take decisive steps to prevent it, this could easily happen.

These are only suppositions so far. The administration is not in a hurry. Though the President has named May 30 as the date of the local elections Parliament has yet to confirm this, so the administration is doing its utmost in this time to secure a victory it is already sure of. What the Government is concerned about is the extent of its victory. If it is overwhelming the administration will have more chance to do what it wants while presenting a democratic facade to the West. However at the same time the less grounds the opposition have to complain about election manipulation, the more confident the administration will be.

Once again very much depends on the position of Georgia’s Western allies. If they are naive enough not to see the means the ruling forces are using to ensure victory there will be a parody of democracy in Georgia which will be a very bad example for world democracy in general. So let’s hope that real democracy prevails, that the West insists on the practice of democracy in Georgia and such developments crate genuine democratic development in the country.